Super Bowl Predictions: Why the Saints and Steelers Will Meet in the Super Bowl

Drake Oz@drakeozbrSenior Writer IIDecember 30, 2010

Super Bowl Predictions: Why the Saints and Steelers Will Meet in the Superbowl

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    MIAMI GARDENS, FL - FEBRUARY 07:  Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints celebrates with his son Baylen Brees after defeating the Indianapolis Colts during Super Bowl XLIV on February 7, 2010 at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Rona
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    The NFL regular season hasn't even ended yet, but I've always been one who likes to look ahead. 

    The majority of the playoff teams have been decided, and two of those squads are the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New Orleans Saints. 

    The Saints are the defending Super Bowl champions.

    The Steelers won the Super Bowl the year before.

    Coincidence? I think not.

    These two teams look poised for another run at the NFL's championship game.

    Here are 10 reasons (five for each team) why the Saints and Steelers will meet in Super Bowl XLV.

5. Saints: Pass Protection

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    NEW ORLEANS, LA - OCTOBER 31: Jahri Evans #73 of the New Orleans Saints in action during the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at the Louisiana Superdome on October 31, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Matthew Sharpe/Getty Images)
    Matthew Sharpe/Getty Images

    Although Drew Brees is not the most athletic quarterback out there, he rarely hits the dirt.

    Other playoff teams like the Chiefs (55 sacks allowed), the Jets (53), the Falcons (47) and the Steelers (47) really struggle in pass protection.

    But Brees has only been sacked 16 times on the season, which is the fewest in the NFL.

    Both of the team's starting guards, Jahri Evans and Carl Nicks, were named to the NFC Pro Bowl roster this year.

    They allow Brees to stay upright more than any other quarterback, and that's good for both his health and his chances of completing a bomb downfield. 

5. Steelers: Home Field Advantage

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    PITTSBURGH - DECEMBER 23:  Mike Wallace #17 of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Carolina Panthers during the game on December 23, 2010 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Ima
    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    Pittsburgh has been a tough team to face at home for the last several years.

    But the Steelers are actually just 5-3 at home in 2010, which isn't great, but is still pretty good.

    However, they're in the position to have home field advantage for every game except the AFC Championship this year.

    It's still Heinz Field. It's still the Pittsburgh Steelers. It's still January weather.

    In other words, it'll still help.

4. Saints: Penalties

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    GAINESVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 11:  A penalty flag lies on the field during a game between the South Florida Bulls and the Florida Gators at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 11, 2010 in Gainesville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
    Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    Penalties seem like such a trivial thing...until they cost your team a game or two.

    And the Saints have the third fewest penalty yards (647) in the NFL, behind only Buffalo and Tampa Bay.

    Let's compare that to some of the other NFC contenders:

    Giants: 874 yards

    Rams: 938 yards

    Bears: 760 yards

    Eagles: 769 yards

    Falcons: 906 yards

    Packers: 712 yards

    New Orleans is among the league's most disciplined teams, which could play a much bigger role than you might think come playoff time.

4. Steelers: Turnover Margin

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    PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 18: Derek Anderson #3 of the Cleveland Browns fumbles the football after being sacked by James Farrior #51 of the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on October 18, 2009 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Steelers defeated the Browns
    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    The Steelers are arguably the NFL's No. 2 team in the turnover department.

    Pittsburgh ranks sixth in the league in turnovers forced with 32 takeaways (18 interceptions and 14 fumble recoveries).

    They also have the fifth fewest giveaways with just 18 on the season.

    That translates to a turnover margin of +14, which is second in the NFL only to the New England Patriots, who are a ridiculous +27.

3. Saints: Drew Brees and the Passing Attack

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    ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 27:  Quarterback Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints celebrates a touchdown pass in the first half during the game against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome on December 27, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Drew Brees has tossed far too many interceptions this season (21), but he's also thrown for more than 4,400 yards and 32 touchdowns.

    New Orleans has a plethora of offensive weapons, from rookie tight end Jimmy Graham to Marques Colston to Lance Moore.

    Three receivers have at least five touchdown catches (Colston, Moore and Robert Meachem), and nine different players have gotten into the end zone.

    The Saints rank second in passing yards (282.8 per game) and 10th in scoring (24.7 per game).

3. Steelers: Rashard Mendenhall

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    BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 05: Rashard Mendenhall #34 of the Pittsburgh Steelers runs with the ball against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on December 5, 2010 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Geoff Burke/Getty Images)
    Geoff Burke/Getty Images

    The unsung hero on the Steelers is running back Rashard Mendenhall.

    He's been one of the league's best backs all season, but he hardly ever gets the recognition of guys like Adrian Peterson and Arian Foster.

    On the season, however, Mendenhall has rushed for 1,237 yards and 11 touchdowns.

    He has three 100-yard rushing games and has also added 22 receptions for another 148 yards.

    Perhaps most importantly though, Mendenhall provides Pittsburgh with a running back who can grind it out and kill some clock to keep opposing offenses off the field.

2. Saints: Experience

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    ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 27:  New Orleans Saints fans watch the first half action during their game against the Altanta Falcosn at the Georgia Dome on December 27, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    The Saints are the defending World Champions.

    Last season they outlasted the Arizona Cardinals (the defending NFC Champs), the Minnesota Vikings (the preseason NFC favorites) and the Indianapolis Colts (always a contender) on the way to a Super Bowl win.

    New Orleans has also taken down the mighty Falcons on the road this year, and the NFC playoffs will likely go through Atlanta.

    The Saints undoubtedly have the experience of playing (and winning) in the playoffs that other NFC teams—like the Falcons—don't.

2. Steelers: Experience

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    TAMPA, FL - FEBRUARY 01:  Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrates with the Vince Lombardi trophy after the Steelers won 27-23 against the Arizona Cardinals during Super Bowl XLIII on February 1, 2009 at Raymond James Stadiu
    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Correct me if I'm wrong here, but the Steelers are used to winning the big one as well.

    Pittsburgh won the Super Bowl during the 2008-09 season and also won it back in 2006.

    Ben Roethlisberger was the quarterback for both of those teams, and several players from those squads are still around.

    The Steelers have been there before, which is certainly helpful in a loaded AFC. 

1. Saints: Defense

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    SAN FRANCISCO - SEPTEMBER 20:  Vernon Davis #85 of the San Francisco 49ers loses the ball while defended by Malcolm Jenkins #27 and Marvin Mitchell #50 of the New Orleans Saints at Candlestick Park on September 20, 2010 in San Francisco, California.  (Pho
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    The Saints were once a team that was all about offense, offense and more offense.

    Not anymore.

    New Orleans ranks fifth in total yards allowed (305.5 per game), second in passing yards allowed (191.1 per game) and sixth in points allowed (18.9 per game).

    The Saints haven't forced as many turnovers in 2010—they have 23 this season—but their defense has improved in most other areas.

    They've held eight of their 15 opponents to less than 20 points and rank sixth in the league in third-down efficiency.

    Opposing offenses only convert 34.7 percent of their third-down attempts.

    Jonathan Vilma (No. 26 in the NFL) and Roman Harper (No. 42) also rank among the NFL's best tacklers.

1. Steelers: Defense

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    DENVER - AUGUST 29:  Linebacker James Harrison #92 and defensive end Brett Keisel #99 of the Pittsburgh Steelers lead the defense against the Denver Broncos during preseason NFL action at INVESCO Field at Mile High on August 29, 2010 in Denver, Colorado.
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    The Steelers seem to always have a good defense, and that's been true again in 2010.

    Pittsburgh ranks second in the NFL in total yards allowed (280.3 per game), first in rushing yards allowed (64.1 per game) and first in points allowed (14.9 per game).

    The Steelers rank third in the league in third-down efficiency—opposing offenses convert just 33.3 percent of third-down tries.

    Dick LeBeau's bunch has held its opponents to 17 points or fewer in 10 games this season, James Harrison has 10.5 sacks (12th in the league), LaMarr Woodley has nine sacks of his own and Troy Polamulu is tied for second in the NFL with six interceptions.

    Lawrence Timmons (No. 9) and James Farrior (No. 22) are also two of the league's top tacklers.